DISEASE RESEARCH on pigs indicates that a human antibody could provide protection from flu.

Studies undertaken at The Pirbright Institute in collaboration with Inovio Pharmaceuticals have shown that a human antibody (2-12C) can provide pigs protection against the 2009 H1N1 pandemic strain of human influenza.

The team’s new research, published in the Journal of Immunology established that both the amount of virus and signs of infection in the lungs were reduced in pigs that received treatment.

This finding indicates that the antibody could potentially prove effective at treating human influenza infections - making the pig an excellent model for assessing antibody therapies.

However, although several influenza antibodies have progressed to clinical trials based on their success in small animals (ferrets and mice), the outcome has been disappointing as no antibodies have shown therapeutic effect in humans.

Alongside testing the efficiency of 2-12C, the team also assessed a new antibody delivery method that works by administering the antibody genes to pigs. Once inside pig cells, the genes continuously generate antibodies, providing longer term protection than a single direct inoculation of antibodies. The team showed that this gene delivery method for 2-12C was able to protect pigs from signs of disease typically caused by H1N1.

The success of this antibody and delivery platform in the pig model indicates that these treatments could potentially also work in humans. Previous research by Pirbright showed that pigs are good models for influenza vaccine studies as they are naturally infected by the same subtypes of influenza viruses as humans, have similar immune systems and are more comparable in size and physiology than smaller animals.

Dr Elma Tchilian, Head of the Mucosal Immunology Group at Pirbright said: “We are very excited that the pig model is useful for testing and refining antibody treatments for life threatening influenza infections. I hope that research into many other infectious diseases will also benefit from this model.”